Playing beneath the rim: A case study of an NCAA Division I women's basketball team

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education


Sari Knopp Biklen


Women's athletics, NCAA Division I, Basketball team

Subject Categories

American Studies | Higher Education and Teaching | Social Psychology and Interaction | Women's Studies


This dissertation is a qualitative study of a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I women's basketball team. It explores the experiences of the team members as they progress through a competitive season for the purpose of describing the importance of themes of discrimination. Data were gathered through participant-observation and in-depth interviews of these women athletes and other persons who directly interact with the team. I focus specifically on the student-athletes as gendered athletes, and how they make meaning of their experiences.

Chapter 1 both introduces the dissertation and provides information pertaining to the research methodology. Chapter 2 reviews literature related to sport as a social institution, women and sport participation, women and the sport of basketball, and women as gendered athletes. Chapter 3, based on interviews with the women of the team, discusses their basketball-related experiences prior to their collegiate career, with a focus on the recruiting process. Chapter 4 takes the reader through a single season from the players' arrival on campus to postseason play, including a tournament in Alaska. The culture of women's basketball, competitive play, and struggles for control are some of the significant topics addressed. Chapter 5 focuses on equity in the athletic program. Chapter 6 analyzes women athletes as gendered athletes. How do they "do gender" and how do they support and contest gender norms? Chapter 7 summarizes the research, suggests some ideas change.

This research is significant for it provides a conduit for discussion related to the experiences of women athletes, specifically women basketball players. It examines how gender mediates their experiences and how they make meaning of their experiences. As women's basketball grows, and more young girls and women participate in the sport, it is important to understand the personal impact of their participation.


Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance.